A well-informed history of a powerful dynasty.

A vivid portrait of California’s land and people emerges from a sympathetic family biography.

Drawing on interviews, oral histories, and extensive archival sources, journalist and Pulitzer Prize–winning editor Pawel (The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 2014, etc.) examines California’s colorful, dramatic, and turbulent history through her biography of the ambitious and influential Browns, a family indelibly involved in the state’s fortunes since 1951, when Edmund G. “Pat” Brown (1905-1996) was sworn in as California’s attorney general. A few years later, as he considered running for governor, he extolled his great state: “To think that I will have some part, good or bad, in shaping its destiny is sobering.” A gregarious politician whose style of campaigning, his wife said, was “low comedy,” in 1959 Brown succeeded in becoming California’s 32nd governor, overseeing a period of exuberant economic and population expansion. His son, Jerry, however, seemed uninterested in following in his father’s footsteps; instead, he entered a Jesuit seminary to study for the priesthood, which he saw as “a path to public service—and an alternative to the commercial politics of his father’s world.” Yet after a few years, bristling against the mandate of “obedience to dogma” that quashed “his inquiring mind and spirit,” he renounced his calling. Politics inevitably drew him: After law school, he won a seat on the Los Angeles school board; a year and a half later, he won election as secretary of state. In 1975 he became the 34th—and youngest—governor of California. Although Pawel chronicles the political career of Pat Brown’s daughter Kathleen, who served as California State Treasurer, Jerry takes center stage for much of the book, as the author recounts his “refreshing” candor and unconventional leadership during his first two terms as governor, earning him the epithet of “Governor Moonbeam”; his years of soul-searching and recalibration after he was defeated in tries for the presidency; his return as defiant and spirited mayor of Oakland and, in 2010, to statewide power as California’s 39th—and oldest—governor.

A well-informed history of a powerful dynasty.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63286-733-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview